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Scouting Report: UAB Blazers

The University of Alabama at Birmingham enters tonight’s contest with a 4-1 record including two BBN Showcase victories of Mount St. Mary & Lamar.  The Blazers play a pretty slow, deliberate style of basketball and will lean heavily on their defense and rebounding prowess to have a chance to stay in the game this evening.  UAB dismissed Junior Guard Zack Bryant, a 3rd Team All-Conference USA selection last season, from the team after just 3 games and have struggled to replace his play-making ability on offense.  Sophomore Tavin Lovan, a Franklin, Kentucky native, leads the Blazers in scoring at just over 13 points per contest.  Let’s dive into the Scouting Report!



#13 Jalen Benjamin:  5’10” 140 lbs, Freshman Point Guard

12.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg

Point Guard.  Most aggressive offensively player.  Will try and push it some in transition.  Need to get back and get the ball stopped.  Shooter.  No ‘3!!!  Will shoot it from deep.  Have to come out and pick him up once he crosses half court to not let him rhythm dribble into a deep pull-up 3.  He can and will make those.  Get over the ballscreens and handoffs.  Do not help off of him when he doesn’t have the ball.  No catch-and-shoot 3’s.  When he drives it he will shoot the pull-up going left and is more likely to try and get to the basket going right.  Not thinking about passing so you can help when he drives.  Only 4 assists on the season.  Stay between him and the basket and make him finish over you.  Better free throw shooter than finisher.  Contest everything.

#3 Tavin Lovan:  6’4″ 196 lbs, Sophomore Guard

13.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg

Strong, thick guard.  Driver.  No right hand drives.  Closeout short to stay between him and the basket.  He is not a threat to shoot it.  1-8 from 3 on the season.  Do not get blown by!  Help off of him and clog up the driving lanes when he doesn’t have the ball.  He is very good around the basket.  They will run some stuff to try and get him so catches around the hoop.  Right hand, left shoulder when he is in the post.  Really wants to finish everything with his right hand.  Be physical with him and try to keep him out of the paint.  Make him shoot jump shots.  Be ready to come help when he drives it if you aren’t guarding a shooter.  Just be solid and try to make him score him score with you between him and the basket.

#0 Tyreek Scott-Grayson:  6’5″ 177 lbs, Junior Guard

7.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg

Lefty.  Shooter.  No 3’s.  Not shooting a good percentage on the season, but he wants to catch-and-shoot so be there on the catch to take it away.  No catch-and-shoot 3’s.  Go over any ballscreen and handoffs.  He will shoot it behind.  Don’t help off of him when he doesn’t have it.  Find him in transition.  Once you take away the 3 he is going to try and drive it left.  No left hand drives.  Long and athletic.  Aggressive offensively in the half-court.  Just be there to contest everything and don’t get blown by letting him drive it left.  Stay between him and the basket and make him finish when he drives.

#5 Makhtar Gueye:  6’10” 210 lbs, Junior Forward

7.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg

Tall, athletic forward.  Willing 3-point shooter.  1-15 on the season.  Closeout short until he makes a couple.  If you feel like you can get tighter and not get beat off the bounce then go ahead and take away the catch-and-shoot, but he has a slow release so give him at least an extra step.  Can help off of him and clog up driving lanes when he doesn’t have it until we adjust him he makes a couple outside shots.  Likes to shoot face-up J’s when he catches it inside.  Have to have your hands up and be ready to contest those.  Right hand, left shoulder in the post.  Very long and athletic.  Box him out!!!  Averaging almost 3 offensive rebounds per game.

#2 Tamell Pearson:  6’10” 223 lbs, Sophomore Forward

4.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Strong post presence.  Not looking to throw it to him a ton.  Right hand, left shoulder in the post.  No drop steps.  Make him score over you.  Will shoot the wide-open 3-pointer.  3-4 on the season.  Just throw a hand up to contest if he does shoot it.  Physical.  Do your work early and make him catch it further from the basket.  His percentages go down the further away from the paint he has to start his move.  Box out!



#11 Kassim Nicholson:  6’7″ 200 lbs, Junior Forward

6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Long, athletic forward.  Capable 3-point shooter, but isn’t hunting shots.  Just be there on the obvious catch-and-shoot 3’s and throw a hand up to contest.  Can closeout a little shorter and be in help clogging up driving lanes off of him until he makes a couple.  Slasher and right hand driver.  Do not get smoked off the dribble going right.  Make him finish with you between him and the basket.  Low percentage finisher.  Box out!!!

#12 Will Butler:  6’8″ 245 lbs, Senior Forward

5.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg

Strong, physical post.  Do your work early and keep him from getting deep post catches.  Really looking to duck you in and bury you deep around the hoop for an easy bucket.  Have to be physical with him.  Right hand, left shoulder in the post.  Must box him out!!!  Great offensive rebounder.  Averaging over 3 offensive rebounders per game.  Make him score with you between him and the basket.  Can come dig the ball out of the post if you are guarding a non-shooter.  Will essentially split time at the “5” with #2 Pearson and is more offensively minded.  Don’t let him come in and play harder than you!

#25 Antonio Real:  6’2” 200 lbs, Senior Guard

1.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Strong wing.  Mostly in there because he is a senior and a solid defender.  Has only attempted 3 shots while playing 10 minutes per game.  Just play him straight up.  Been in help off of him and clog up the driving lanes until he shows he can knock a couple in.  No right hand drives.

#10 Luis Hurtado:  6’6″ 210 lbs, Redshirt Sophomore Guard

1.5 ppg (only played last 2 games)

Big, strong wing.  Has only attempted 2 shots in 18 minutes of play over the last two games.  Just play him straight up.  Both of his shots have been 3’s.  Be there on the obvious catch-and-shoot and contest if he does shoot.  No right hand drives.

UAB Offense

This is an offense that wants to run a lot of set plays.  They will be in a traditional motion offense when they don’t call something, but especially after a make they are going to run a play almost every possession.  Here are a handful of their favorites actions that you will see tonight.

Horns Set, Downscreen to Double.  Begins in the Horns alignment, which is forwards at the elbows and guards in the corners.  The point guard hits one of the forwards on the elbow.  The other forward goes and sets a downscreen for the guard coming out of the corner.  If he doesn’t get it he will just curl through to the other side, but if he does get a catch and can’t get the shot off the forwards will set a baseline double for the other guard coming out of the corner (you can see #3 for UAB coming off that baseline double at the end of this clip).  Also, notice how #0 (the shooter) in the clip shoots it behind the handoff because his defender went “up through” the downscreen and went under the handoff.  We want to “chase” off the downscreen and get over the handoff to help guard against the 3.

Handoff to Baseline Runner.  Point Guard starts by handing off with another guard on the right wing.  After he hands it off the Point Guard will curl down and run along the baseline off a double screen from the forwards on each block.  As soon as the guard on the right wing receives the handoff the guard on the left wing will come up as high as he needs to get a catch.  They are looking for #13 Benjamin coming off of the baseline double to score.  Will get into a Side Ballscreen if they don’t have anything off the screen.

Diagonal Screen, Downscreen.  Typical screen-the-screener action.  They run this a lot.  Starts out of a Horns type of alignment.  Point Guard hits the forward at the left elbow and cuts towards the rim out out to the left corner as the guard in that corners works his way to the block.  The forward on the right elbow steps up high to get a catch and reverses it to the other guard out of the corner.  The guard on the block (#0 in the clip) then sets a back screen for the forward (#11) to try and get a catch on the block.  After the back screen is set, the screener will receive a downscreen (again, #0 in this clip).

Diagonal Screen, Double.  Just like the play shown above, they will run it again but instead of setting the downscreen for the screener they will set a double for the guard in the corner (in this case #13 in the above clip).  They like to run those actions back-to-back and they are a couple of their favorite set plays.

Alley Ballscreen.  Point Guard has the ball up top and receives a high ballscreen from the 5-man.  One player, usually a guard/wing will have his head underneath the rim and the other two players are spaced out in the corners.  As the Point Guard comes off the high ballscreen and the 5-man rolls to the rim, the guard under the rim, the “replace” guy, will lift up to the top of the key opposite of whichever way the PG comes off the screen.

UAB Defense

Traditional, solid man-to-man defense.  They use their size and length to really stuff the gaps and keep you out of the paint.  Have mixed in some 2-3 Zone as well.

Keys to the Game

  • Rebound!!!  We have struggled a bit in this department so far this season and it is strength for them.  We have to have a concerted team effort of 5 guys boxing out and limiting them to 1 shot per possession.
  • No 3’s for #13 or #0.  Much like Lamar, this is a very poor shooting team with only a couple of guys who are a threat to shoot it from deep.  Both #13 and #0 are aggressive offensive players who will get up shots anytime they have an opening.  We have to get over the ballscreens and handoffs and close out to them to take away the 3.  Know where these guys are at all times!
  • Dictate pace of play.  Last game we were much better of playing fast and being ready to take and make open shots when they came to us.  They are going to try and play a half-court, slower game with a bunch of set plays.  If we can get stops and get the game moving up-and-down it will take them out of what they are best at doing.
  • Shoot it with confidence.  They are a stingy defensive team that really protects the paint and makes it hard for you to get to the rim.  They would rather give you an open 3 than let you penetrate their defense.  Last game we did a MUCH better job taking and making 3’s.  Teams have only shot 28.8% from 3 this season and that is why they are 4-1.  If we can make double-digit 3’s they won’t be able to score enough to win.


Article written by Brandon Ramsey